Saint Anne, Saint Anne, bring me a man as fast as you can!

Photo by cottonbro

For most of my life I wasn’t sure I wanted a good Catholic fellow. After one failed long term relationship, a smattering of dead end first dates and years of the single life, I was more than hesitant to limit my options. It seemed to me that young Catholic gentlemen were rare and far between. I also had yet to discover the true power of prayer and was skeptical that it could land me my dream husband. The jury was still out on whether such a person even existed at all. Little did I know that God had plans for me.

At the urging of my deeply Catholic and loving mother, I prayed a nine day novena to Saint Anne. I wasn’t expecting it to work but I knew it would make my mom happy and at the very least, it couldn’t hurt my odds. As a much more seasoned woman of faith than I, my mom had some tips for exactly what intercessions to ask for from the patron Saint of unmarried women. Her number one piece of advice was to BE SPECIFIC. I wasn’t merely praying for a date or even a husband but rather that God send me a kind, humble, handsome, Catholic gentleman who would go the extra mile early and often and would always strive to bring me closer to my faith. I rolled my eyes at the time for what I thought could only amount to wishful thinking but did as instructed. I said the words everyday while desperately hoping that, just maybe, the grandmother of our savior, Jesus Christ, might hear my plea for help. 

Not only were my prayers heard. They were answered one thousand times over. Just a few months after my grudging but heartfelt novena to Saint Anne I met the love of my life, a man I would marry just one year later. No good thing in my life has come to me the way I expected but every single prayer was answered. I got everything I asked for in my husband . He’s even more old-fashioned than I am, always holding doors for me and showing up with a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. Since we met he’s taught me nearly all the prayers I know; the Rosary, the Memoroire, the Guardian Angel Prayer. He’s constantly looking for ways to woo and spoil me while keeping me humble and on the path to God. 

Prayer works! Everyday that I get to wake up to my very own miracle is a happy reminder that God hears me and He loves me.


Faith isn’t Taboo

There always seem to be a couple of subjects that most people shy away from in professional or social situations. Politics and religion are devoutly avoided because you never know who could be listening and of course you don’t want to offend your friends or coworkers. This is, in my opinion, precisely the wrong approach.

As disciples of Christ we are called to do God’s work and spread the good news. We should talk about our faith just as freely as we would a favorite hobby because it’s so much more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle and a conscious choice that informs everything we do. In every conversation, whether it be at work or at a Saturday potluck, we should always strive to be living examples of Christ for the other person. This does not mean that we have to be preachy or holier than thou. It doesn’t mean that we are on a mission to force our ideas and beliefs down the throats of everyone we meet. Quite the opposite.

We are always called to act in an attitude of service, kindness and compassion toward our neighbor (friends, family, coworkers, random strangers on the street) and to turn toward God in everything we do. This sounds straightforward but can be surprisingly uncomfortable in our modern society. Sometimes it seems nothing short of social suicide to tell people what we believe. However, as with everything in life, practice makes perfect. Here are some small, everyday ways that you can profess your faith without losing your friends.

  • Wear a cross or crucifix
  • Make the sign of the cross and pray before a meal when you go out to eat
  • Pray a rosary when boarding a plane or other public transportation
  • Be honest in office small talk. Share your weekend fellowship or service ministry experiences and your Sunday plans.
  • Invite friends to mass – they might say no but at the very least it’s nice to be invited and there’s always a chance that this is just the invitation they were waiting for.

We might be a little uncomfortable and out of practice when it comes to sharing our faith but we absolutely can and should talk about it. Being Catholic is more than going to church on Sunday or helping with the local soup kitchen or filling up the parish collection basket. We have to go out into the world and proclaim the good news. 

God’s Beautiful Creation

In addition to being newly and devoutly Catholic, I’m also constantly amazed by all the color and beauty in the world, particularly in nature. I grew up hiking and camping in Colorado and Utah and developed an amateur photography habit over the years in an effort to capture all the everyday miracles that God has blessed my life with. I hope these moments brighten your day with the same joy that I felt when collecting them. Today’s photos are some irresistible fall blooms that caught my eye on a cool evening stroll with my husband.

Can Non-Catholics Go to Mass?

Of course! Everyone is welcome to attend Catholic mass. The word ‘Catholic’ quite literally means all embracing used to describe the universal church. Here all are able to witness the mass with the only caveat that you refrain from receiving the Eucharist until being fully initiated into the church through Baptism and First Communion. Attending a service for a faith to which you don’t belong can feel very daunting and awkward but, in this church, all people belong. 

Growing up, I always allowed myself to be dragged to church on the holidays to make my parents happy but never gave much thought to the meaning behind it. Even after moving away from my family I started attending church on Sunday for investigative reasons rather than moral ones. I knew that there had to be some higher power at work in the world and thought that the Catholic church was a fine place to begin my search for answers. I had no intention of converting to the faith at the time. In part, I simply wanted to be able to have an educated conversation with my parents about why I opted to not be Catholic. 

My first few weeks at mass were hardly comfortable. Without my parents beside me to lead me along in the various readings and prayers I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I struggled to navigate the hymnals and worship aids. I never knew when to stand or sit or kneel and was constantly watching out of the corner of my eye to see what my fellow church goers did. I made sure to always find a seat toward the back of the massive sanctuary so as not to be noticed too much if I made a mistake. 

Of course, the people around me were nothing but welcoming. More than once, the parishioner next to me sensed my nervous, new-comer ways as I frantically flipped through the missal in search of the day’s Gospel reading. They would smile warmly and lean in to kindly direct me to the correct page. 

My nerves would always peak as everyone stood and filed up to the altar to receive communion toward the end of every mass. This was one activity in which I could not participate as I had not yet received my sacraments of initiation. I watched, self consciously, feeling as if all eyes were on me as I waited for people to return to the pews. 

However, I soon realized that no one was looking at me as I quietly witnessed the mass every Sunday. There were no disapproving stares turned my way and no furtive whispers as I came and went from mass every week. Although people were happy to help when discovering an uneducated, baby Catholic in the making, the truth was that people were generally not paying attention to me at all. They were not there to judge or gossip. They had come to church to reverence Christ and participate in the sacrament of holy Eucharist. 

Despite my lack of knowledge of the logistics of the mass I never felt unwanted and there has never been a time since then that I considered not attending Sunday mass. I quickly grew comfortable with going to church and even began to look forward to it. I always loved being read to since before I myself could read. The Lord of the Rings was a particular favorite bedtime story that my dad read to my sister and I when we were little. Even though I’m still learning my Bible, mass occasionally recalled some of those childhood moments curled up next to my dad with the huge fantasy novel open in his lap. 

I enjoyed learning the historical context behind the readings each week in the homily and was soothed by the voices of canters leading the assembly in musical prayer. It would be many months before I openly admitted my desire to be fully received into the Catholic church but even in those first weeks at mass, God was calling me home.

My Adult Conversion: Baby Steps

Although it’s fun to imagine finding God as a momentous occasion punctuated by a colossal clap of thunder or flash of lightning as one might see on the big screen at the theater, my Catholic beginnings were much more humble. I didn’t suddenly wake up from a Godless life in an instant of understanding and fall to my knees then and there. There wasn’t a single moment that brought me to faith, but many moments over the course of many years. 

Consciously or not, my parents successfully seeded Christian undertones throughout my upbringing although we were Chreasters (Christmas and Easter Christians) at best. When I was in high school they both returned to the faith and our family dinner table discussions about religion became much more intentional. My sister always had a knack for debate and firm conviction in her idea of right and wrong which made for some interesting dialogue. Despite my parents’ lack of organized religion during our formative years, they were always our greatest cheerleaders and my sister and I both grew up believing that we were capable of anything we set our minds to. 

We both made it through high school and difficult technical college degrees through our own grit as well as constant encouragement from our parents. Only now, upon reflection, do I realize that all of those wins in school were actually answered prayers that my parents had sent up on our behalf. Long before I consciously accepted God into my heart, He was there with me in my struggles. This realization was the first of many to lead me to the Catholic church. 

No matter what trials I undertook in my life, things always seemed to work out the way they were supposed to. When I was little I would’ve said that I was the luckiest person on Earth. This belief persisted into my early 20s when I suddenly found myself living, working and even thriving in the flatlands of Indiana, over a thousand miles away from all of the friends and family that I knew and loved in Colorado. How could I be so lucky to have come this far and still found success and happiness in such an unfamiliar landscape?

There were two possible answers to this question. The first and more unlikely answer was that I had solved the riddle from the start and actually was the luckiest person on Earth. I’ve always considered myself a generally good person but hardly the best of them. When compared to the average generally good person there was nothing that set me apart from the crowd. If luck had anything to do with karma, there was no reason for me, a shy, polite 21 year old engineer, to be granted the ultimate lottery. Therefore, the only logical alternative was that there is a God and He loves me. 

I always accepted that there was some higher power at work in the world watching over me. During my childhood, that was sufficient. It was enough to know that things would eventually work out for the best. However, it took being on my own to begin to wonder exactly who it was I had to thank for all of the wonderful things in my life. Thus, for the first time in my memory, I got myself to church on Sunday.

Love at First Communion (Our Holy Meet Cute)

Photo by David Eucaristía

He noticed me for the first time during the Easter Vigil mass where I was receiving my sacraments of initiation; Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. Nervous and preoccupied at the time, I had no idea that my future husband was there with his family watching as I entered the Catholic faith. He spent the next three weeks asking around about me at church until we finally connected on a Catholic dating site. 

Once again, God was helping us along. I’d previously given up on online dating altogether but decided to give it one more try. Five minutes after posting my profile he messaged asking about my upbringing in Colorado. He’d clearly read the profile. Many texts and 3-hour phone calls later, he asked if we could catch mass and lunch at a local burger joint. He was a man with a plan. We met for the first time for Pentecost Mass. Afterward, we lost track of time while enjoying the sights and flavors of downtown Valpo. Who could have guessed that an Easter baptism would mean having a date to church every Sunday for the rest of my life?